Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Tajikistan has a Problem Russia Would Like to Have: Its Birthrate is Too High

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 11 – Faced with a population that continues to grow at rates that challenge the ability of the Tajik authorities to provide support for young people and jobs when they are older, Dushanbe has made driving down the birthrate the central plank of its new “program for reproductive health for 2019-2022.”

            To achieve that goal and to improve the health of women, the Tajik government has directed its ministries of health care and social security to make contraceptives more readily available throughout the country to promote their use (stanradar.com/news/full/35740-vlasti-tadzhikistana-reshili-umenshit-rozhdaemost-v-strane.html).

                The program is intended to prevent more than 450,000 pregnancies, at least some of them unwanted, over the next three years.  This action has come in respond to a World Bank recommendation last year that Dushanbe take such action to reduce poverty, unemployment, and the high level of outmigration to other countries, particularly Russia. 

            Tajikistan’s population is currently growing at more than two percent a year, a figure that the country is finding it difficult to cope with. According to the UN’s World Food Program, “almost half” of its people live on less than 1.33 US dollars a day, far below the established poverty figure of 1.90 US dollars a day.

            In fact, Tajikistan has reduced the fertility rate since the 1990s. Then, the average Tajik woman gave birth to six children per lifetime. Now, urban Tajiks give birth to no more than three, although rural ones still give birth to four, figures too high to stabilize the population anytime soon.

            (Even if the new program succeeds, the population will continue to grow for at least a generation because those already born are sufficiently numerous that even if each has fewer children, the total number of children will go up, something that complicates demographic management.)

            There is enormous resistance to family planning and contraception among conservative Muslim groups for whom each child is viewed as a gift from Allah and ending a pregnancy is considered to be a major sin.  Given the continuing influence of these groups, the new Tajik program is unlikely to meet its target figures.

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